Physical Web on Google Chrome for Android
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a key building block for the Internet of Things (IoT), thanks to its pervasiveness (mobile devices support Bluetooth 4.0), low-power consumption and protocol optimization for low-baudrate transmission. BLE beacons are an important piece of the IoT puzzle, and have the potential to enable vastly more contextual services in the physical world.
A part of Google Internet of Things approach, the Physical Web project, involves using BLE beacons that can directly communicate with smartphones. The Physical Web solves the discoverability and accessibility challenge by providing an open standard with an initial implementation by Google, released initially in 2015. The Physical Web allows any object to broadcast URLs (Uniform Resource Locator) with contextually-relevant information, using the Eddystone-URL packet format. URLs are a well-known concept as part of the open and well-established web technology stack. The web browser knows how to interpret any URL and how to displays the linked information, without the need of additional mobile apps.
The big news of the beginning of 2016 is that, starting with version 49, currently in beta, Chrome for Android will be able to read and interact with Eddystone-URL beacons. In the following, we provide a step-by-step guide to show you how to test Physical Web support with Chrome Beta.
Get a Physical Web beacon and Chrome beta
Ensure you have Physical Web beacon nearby, advertising
Eddystone-URL packet, such as https://goo.gl/uH4b5l (www.blueupbeacons.com in compact form).
Download Chrome Beta from Google Play. Consider that it is not yet fully rolled out and you can check, in the privacy settings, if it contains a Physical Web entry. If not, you should enable it by entering chrome://flags in the browser bar and activating it.
Grant Chrome Location Permission
Open the Chrome Beta and access a web page that requires location, e.g. https://maps.google.com. Grant these location permissions by clicking “allow”.
Discover Physical Web beacons
The first time you come into contact with a Physical Web beacon, you will receive a notification through Chrome asking if you want to enable the Physical Web. If activated, you will see a passive notification that lists what Eddystone-URL beacons are nearby.
New exciting applications are now possible: a smart dog collar, interaction with a vending machine or a bus stop, remote control. Have a look at the Physical Web Cookbook for a few interesting examples.
Google Chrome for Android is not the only one browser entered into the Physical Web arena. Also Opera 32 for Android have the support for Eddystone-URL beacons.
Are you interested in Physical Web applications and best-in-class beacons supporting Eddystone-URL format?
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